Car Stuff

Here are things related to my 2005 BMW 330i Performance Package [E46] and/or 2008 Honda Fit Sport [GD 01-08].  Both cars are at stock ride height in case you’re wondering.

Samlex Pure Sine Wave Inverter PST-15s-12A
An inverter converts direct current (e.g. a cigarette lighter in a car) to alternating current (home wall outlet power).  At the time I had a $50 Xantrex inverter to run a car-based cellular modem setup off of, and I remembered how whatever I plugged into it – laptops & networking equipment – would also get unusually hot.  I knew heat was the enemy of electronics – the cooler electronics run, the longer they last – so I decided to get this Samlex pure sine wave inverter replicate the kind of power these devices were designed for.   A pure sine wave inverter puts out power that is essentially just like that from a wall outlet in your home.

Typical DC/AC inverters, like the Xantrex I had, reduce their manufacturing cost by putting out an ‘approximation’ of a sine wave called a square wave or a modified sine wave (sine wave = smooth squiggle; square wave = battlement; modified sine wave = short staircases).  Since square wave output just continuously flip flops from max upper peak to max lower peak instantaneously, instead of the smooth peak to peak slope of a sine wave, it may throw more power at your device that it really wants and this can lead to overheating.  This problem is reduced in a modified sine wave inverter, but as I saw with the  Xantrex it still causes overheating compared to pure sine wave output.  Here’s a good technical rundown.  It’s written in the context of computer battery backup units, but those units contain inverters and the waveform issues are the same.

If you’re only looking to charge something that can be powered by USB, like a phone, and you don’t have a built-in USB port in your car, a simplified approach would be something like a Griffin PowerJolt Dual Micro because it skips the inverter issues entirely.  Such a device essentially steps down your car’s DC voltage a little – from 12v to 5v and fixes current at an iPhone safe 1.0 Amps.  Generic devices like this are a dime a dozen, but this charger also includes a built in ‘SmartFuse’ that cuts  power if in the event of a surge.  Unplugging the Powerjolt for 15 seconds will reset the Smartfuse.

Race Ramps
Race Ramps are made of high density EPS foam encapsulated by a tough, thick layer of polyurethane.  Foam may not be the first thing that comes to mind for supporting heavy loads, but then again not many people have heard of the under-road material known as Geofoam.  Race Ramps are patented and have several advantages over plastic or metal car ramps that I’ve seen.  First, these do not slide when you’re driving up them, at all (both plastic Rhino-ramps and steel ramps are quite prone to sliding in my experience).  Second, the stopper bump is substantial: there’s no sense that you might overdo it and accidentally roll off the other side of the ramp.  Third they are easy to position, being so light and wide. Fourth and most importantly, they have a very shallow ramp angle, which means that aero-nosed cars can drive up without scraping their lower lip and/or pushing the ramp continually away from the wheels.  Fwiw, both of my cars require ramps with a shallow-angle like this.  I’ve had these for around 5 years now.

Buyers Rubber Wheel Chock
If you’re planning on getting a car up on jackstands, then these are perfect for locking the front wheels on their ramps while you jack from the rear.  Otherwise you risk the car rolling backwards as you raise it up.  These chocks are a good size, their material is nice and grippy and their shape cups the tire.  I tried a few other designs before these and there was no contest. A use-case clarification: once I’ve got the front tires up on the Race Ramps, these go behind the front tires on the Race Ramps.  That way a trap is formed – if a tire rolls forward, it hits the bump on the Race Ramp and if the tire rolls backward, it hits this chock.

American Forge & Foundry 200T Floor Jack
This extremely solid all-steel floor jack boasts a very low profile and a non-marring rubber jack pad.  I’ve had this for about 5 years as well.  Compared to what I’ve used from Sears and Harbor Freight, this is the hands down winner.  There are more expensive low profile jacks out there, but I don’t know how this could be improved.  It even has an over-pressure safety valve in case you try to jack beyond full extension.

Mityvac Oil Extractor
It took me awhile to get one of these, but now I’ve had it for a few years and it’s definitely worth it.  With the BMW it makes it so an oil change can be done without  raising the car up or getting underneath it at all.  With the Fit though, you’ve still got to reach underneath to unscrew the filter.  Operation is simple: You take out the dipstick, feed the extraction tube down until it hits the bottom of the oil pan and then pump the Mityvac to create a vacuum.  You might wonder if this gets out as much oil as the traditional drain bolt method, and I’d have to say that with the cars it gets out just as much, if not more.  I’ve tested it by sucking the oil out and then opening the drain bolt; _nothing_ is there.   Using just the drain bolt, even if you let the drain bolt drip for a long time, there’s still a little oil peeking out over the edge – it wants to drip but surface tension holds it in the threads.  With the Mityvac method, that little bit isn’t even there.  I also use it for small engine oil changes e.g. lawnmower, generator, weed wacker etc.

Torin Big Red Shop Creeper
I had a plastic one before this it held up for about five minutes .  This one has been perfect for three years.  Metal frame, decent cushioning, low height and urethane ‘rollerblade’ wheels on swivels.

Mann-Filter HU 925/4 X Oil Filter for BMW E46
Here’s the BMW E46 OEM oil filter.  Usually I add one to an Amazon order if I’m trying to make the $25 free super saver shipping threshold.

LubroMoly 5w-30 Synthetic Oil for BMW E46
E46 motors are designed to use a Castrol 5w30 full synthetic oil that is only available through BMW dealerships.   They use a special ‘long-life’ formula that is different from the Castrol synthetic you might see in a store.  The only two third-party oils that meet the E46 oil endurance spec are 0w40 Mobil One Synthetic, which is usable but the wrong weight, and Lubro Moly 5w30, which is the right weight.

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